Ship Captain Schools and Training Programs: How to Choose

Ship captains can have careers outside the military, such as working in product transport for global corporations or commanding a cruise ship. Read on for info about picking a school and to see U.S. schools with relevant degree programs.

How to Choose a Ship Captain School or Training Program

Programs that train students to become ship captains can be found at maritime academies and 4-year colleges and universities. There are also non-military-related schools where students can earn the education needed to begin a career.

Remember the following while choosing a ship captain program:

  • It is good to look for schools with deck officer or marine transportation programs, especially ones that issue a U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential (MMC) upon graduation. An MMC allows a graduate to work on any U.S. ship in any ocean regardless of the ship's size, load or horsepower.
  • Students may want to review the faculty and staff at the school of their choice to ensure that they have the following credentials: Master Mariner, Unlimited, or Any Ocean, which signifies that a professor can work on any size U.S. ship over any water.
  • The curriculum in marine transportation programs is broad and includes topics from basic medicine to ocean science, but it should include time on a ship and real-life simulations.
  • Students may want to investigate the benefits offered to graduates. All programs that carry an MMC credential offer graduates the opportunity to participate in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard and earn a reserve officer's commission.

Ship Captain Training Program Overviews

Marine Transportation Programs

These programs combine humanities and science courses with training and instruction in different aspects of the maritime industry, including business and technology. Students will have to take many lab-based courses, such as:

  • Marine survival
  • Navigation
  • Nautical science

Many programs require training cruises in the spring or summer.

Licensed Deck Officer

Licensed deck officer programs are 3- or 4-year programs. Similar to programs in marine transportation, these programs include courses in business and science, and maritime-specific courses include:

  • Piloting
  • Cargo stowage
  • Ship safety

Passing the Merchant Mariner's license examination is the final requirement in order to earn the degree.

10 Schools for Aspiring Ship Captains

University/CollegeInstitution Type
AVTEC-Alaska's Institute of Technology2-year, Public
College of Southern Idaho2-year, Public
ECPI University4-year, primarily associate's, Private not-for-profit
Maine Maritime Academy4-year, Public
Massachusetts Maritime Academy4-year, Public
Orange Coast College2-year, Public
The California Maritime Academy4-year, Public
United States Merchant Marine Academy4-year, Public
The Landing School2-year, Private not-for-profit
University of Alaska Southeast4-year, Public

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